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Patricia Harris choosing produce from a fruit and veg stall


You may not know what it is but you know it the minute you see it. Today I have invented a new word, that word is 'simplexity' and I have already begun to find examples of it everywhere.

This blog post is being written inside a McDonald's drive-through restaurant in Bedford. Well, I say I'm writing it, I'm speaking it into my phone and Siri is doing a rather fine job of transcribing it for me. Oh yes, and some people are looking at me funny because it probably looks as if I'm speaking to the table. More on McDonald's in a short while.

This morning I had a meeting in Bedford with Bal to review the progress of the website we are building for the law firm she works for. Aside from how fabulous the website looks F483; one of the big things we discussed was the challenge of making the website homepage simple, clean and easy to understand; whilst giving the Partners exactly what they wanted - the ability to show that this Bedford law firm offers the broadest range of legal services.

Bal described this beautifully

She said it's like we just want to see a small selection of fruit on the website homepage, we don't need to see the entire fruit and veg stall. To which I responded Yes! What we need is simplexity.
Simplexity:[noun]; a portmanteau made from the words simple & complexity, to describe the much sought after quality of making something that is complex appear simple for the user to use.

You can find simplexity everywhere

For example, how complex is your car? The truth is you don't really know how the engine management system works, you don't know how the fuel injection system works and, in truth, you don't need to know. You know that you put petrol in the tank, air in the tyres, water in the radiator and then you jump in the car, turn on the ignition and drive. The things that you use in a car (the elements that contribute to the UX or driving experience) such as: steering wheel, brakes, clutch, accelerator and handbrake are universal. I bet you feel that your car is simple to drive but I also bet that only very few of us have any real idea of just how complex a car is beyond its interior.

Simplexity is the art of showing the user only what they need and want. In a car, the complicated 'stuff' (the stuff we don't 'need' whilst driving) gets hidden away from us meddling humans who have this weird penchant for cars that are a pleasure to drive.

This aspect of the human condition is not exclusive to using cars; when it comes to designing websites that are a pleasure to use we find everyone, without exception, is on a quest for a website that is simply more clickable. So, just like designing a car or a setting-out a fruit stall, the trick with cognitive web design is not to fall into the trap of i) thinking that visitors will need everything you do and ii) trying to show everybody everything at once.

My meeting with Bal this morning was all about simplexity, we spent most of our time talking about how to make many dozens of legal services instantly findable without cluttering the lovely, clean and simple homepage. When the website launches I promise that I will publish a blog about the simple solution we came up with.

Drive-through business simplexity

On the way home from my meeting with Bal, I nipped into McDonald's for a cheeky McChicken Sandwich. As I queued to place my order I looked forward and saw two pairs of pensioners ahead of me; to my right were, what I later learned are known as, kiosks. McDonald's kiosks are touchscreen displays placed right in front of the entrance door. People who know precisely what they wish to order are able to place their order via the touchscreen kiosk and it should come as no surprise to learn that the people using the kiosks were in their late teens or early twenties. If your McDonald's order is complicated (for example if you want a McChicken Sandwich but you don't want any mayonnaise) then you, like me, may join the queue to the left and talk to a human as helpful and happy as Rosie was with me this lunchtime.

Simplexity is the art of showing the user just what they need at the time they need it.

We understand that your business is complex and that you've got so much to offer but your average web design visitor only has one thing on their mind. The responsibility you have as a business owner designing a website is to articulate your business proposition. Just as I don't want to see or 'use' the complex engine in my a car so too do I not want to be shown all the fruit on your stall. Think about my needs, my wants, my situation and my objectives as a website user and then proceed to show me, tell me and demonstrate to me what I need and then let me know how you can help me get them. That's simplexity.

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